Tomatoes are one of the easiest plants to start from seeds. You don't need special equipment and the seeds don't need special preparation prior to planting. All you really need is a sterile seed-starting mix and a sunny windowsill. After germination, re-pot your tomato seedlings in 4-inch pots. Wait until your tomato seedlings have their first set of true leaves before re-potting. A world of heirloom and specialty tomatoes awaits you if you decide to start tomatoes from seed.
Preparing Seed-Starting Flats
Seed-starting flats are much easier to use than individual pots. With seed-starting flats, you just sprinkle seeds over the surface rather than planting seeds in individual pots. It is also easier to keep seedlings in seed-starting flats moist and warm.
Place your seed-starting flat in a large, shallow container. This allows the water to be absorbed by the soil and prevent damping off, a fungal problem that causes seedling stems to rot at the soil level.
Fill your seed-starting flat with moistened seed-starting soil to within 1 inch of the top. Moistened seed-starting soil is easier to handle and helps to prevent air pockets from forming.
The easiest choice for soil to start your tomato seeds is a commercially made, sterile seed-starting soil. This is a soil-less mix made up of a combination of peat moss, perlite or vermiculite, and organic and inorganic nutrients.
You can make your own seed-starting soil by combining equal amounts of compost and peat moss or coconut fiber. Add enough perlite or vermiculite to make the mix loose and fluffy.
Planting Tomato Seeds
Moisten the seed-starting mix. Scatter the tomato seeds evenly over the surface of the seed-starting flat. Cover the seeds with 1/4 inch of seed-starting soil.
Caring for Tomato Seeds
Keep the seed-starting soil moist. Do this by placing your seed-starting flat in a slightly larger shallow container. Place water in the shallow container and allow the soil to draw the water up from the bottom.
Place your flat in a bright location; a southern facing window works well for this. Rotate the flat regularly to ensure that the seedlings grow straight up rather then bending in one direction.
For faster germination, place the seed-starting flat (including the shallow container) on a seedling heating mat set to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are using grow lights, then adjust the rack so that the lights are suspended 6 to 12 inches above the seed-starting flat. The tomato seeds will germinate in seven to 14 days, depending on the variety.